Karmapa Will Return to India: Interview

The move will end a year's stay in the US, where he has undergone medical exams, the senior Tibetan religious figure says.

The Karmapa speaks in an interview with RFA Tibetan Service director Kalden Lodoe, July 30, 2018.

Tibetan Buddhist leader the Karmapa will return to India, ending a stay of just over a year in the United States where he has undergone medical exams, the senior religious figure said in an interview with RFA’s Tibetan Service on Monday.

The Karmapa, head of the 900-year-old Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, a branch of one of the four main traditions of the religion, is now in talks with the Indian government over his return and may go back as soon as November, though the exact date of his return is still unclear, the lama said.

“I have no doubt or question that my return to India is absolutely certain,” said the Karmapa, who  escaped as a refugee from China to India at the end of 1999, and who has lived under conditions of restricted travel ever since.

“In November of this year, there will be an important meeting of the heads of the major Tibetan Buddhist traditions in Dharamsala, India,” the Karmapa said.

Tibet’s India-based exile government the Central Tibetan Administration and exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, with whom the Karmapa is close, are expecting him to be present at the meeting, he said, adding, “Therefore, I must attend.”

Acknowledging public speculation over the reasons for his lengthy stay in the U.S., mainly in New York, and rumors that he might wish to travel to China to visit his parents, the Karmapa said that it has been his intention all along to go back to India.

“So I wanted to clarify these things by having constructive talks with the Indian government, and we are going ahead with discussions now. If things turn out well, I am ready to return,” he said.

“When I first arrived in India, I faced many difficulties, including accusations that I was a Chinese agent,” the Karmapa said, adding that his access to Indian authorities was for a long time limited to lower-level officials.

“But now we have an opportunity to meet with higher-level Indian leaders to explain my situation, which has made a huge difference.”

No major health concerns

Though medical exams have prolonged his stay in the U.S., checkups have revealed no serious threats to his health despite a history of high blood pressure and warnings from a doctor in Germany that something might be wrong with his throat, the Karmapa said.

“In America, I have had a thorough check of my throat in a hospital, and I was told that there are no major issues to be concerned about.”

“Apart from that, there are some possible indications of diabetes, and the doctors have advised a better diet. There is also a small issue with my heart, and I am still undergoing screening and testing,” he said.

“There are no major concerns about my health,” he said.

Karmapa Orgyen Trinley Dorje, born in Tibet in 1985, was identified by the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan religious leaders as an important “reincarnate” Buddhist teacher and was installed in his predecessors’ monastery in Tibet.

But Chinese authorities prevented him, he later said, from studying with the lamas he had hoped would be his mentors.

Avoiding detection by the officials assigned to monitor his movements, the Karmapa escaped in late 1999 and fled into exile in India where, before his move last year to the United States, he has lived under conditions of restricted travel for over 17 years.

Reported by Kalden Lodoe for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Written in English by Richard Finney.